By Ardith Stephanson
When it comes time to stock your kitchen with cookware, the choices can be overwhelming.
Perhaps you want to replace existing cookware, or add to what you’ve already got. Maybe you’re just setting up your kitchen for the first time, or looking for the perfect gift for someone else.
How do you know what cookware is best? And how do you compare all the different types of cookware? What about non-stick cookware, or copper cookware? What if you want to use your cookware on the BBQ?
So we’re here to help with a look at how cast iron compares to several popular cookware models. Our guide examines why cast iron is the best choice in cookware, with reasons that cast iron is superior to three other popular types of cookware.
1. Why Cast Iron Is Better Than Non-Stick Cookware
2. Why Cast Iron Is Better Than Stainless Steel Cookware
3. Why Cast Iron Is Better Than Copper Cookware
4. Why Cast Iron Is Superior To Any Cookware
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1. Cast Iron Vs. Non-Stick Cookware
Cookware referred to as “non-stick” means it’s covered with a commercially manufactured coating that’s engineered not to stick. That’s often polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE); a well-known brand of PTFE is “Teflon.” Therefore, you’ll often hear non-stick pans referred to as Teflon pans, whether or not they have that brand of coating.
Cast iron, on the other hand, is the original, natural non-stick pan, made of iron. It has a non-toxic cooking surface and is tough and durable.
Here are 4 reasons to choose cast iron over non-stick cookware...
1. Non-stick cookware scratches easily, which affects the non-stick quality.
Cast iron’s non-stick coating will only get better with use and care. Non-stick coatings easily scratch, impacting the non-stick quality as well as the life of the pan.
2. Cast iron cookware can withstand high heat; non-stick cannot.
Cast iron can withstand high heat and can be placed in the oven, on the barbecue or even on a fire. It won’t melt at high heat, and neither will its handles. Non-stick pans can’t handle high heat and shouldn’t be placed in an oven. They also aren’t meant for cooking on a barbecue or on a fire. Non-stick coated skillets should only be used on the stovetop, and at medium heat - medium-high heat at the maximum.
3. Cast iron conducts heat better than non-stick.
The coating on non-stick doesn’t conduct heat as well as cast iron. That means you won’t be able to sear your meat as well as you can with cast iron. Cast iron will give you great colour and flavour when searing. For the same reason, the heat conduction of cast iron is also ideal for deep frying.
4. Some are concerned about the health effects of a chemical coating.
There is still uncertainty about the health effects of cooking with PTFE. While some reports state that it’s safe as long as it isn’t used at very high temperatures, others still have concerns. Cast iron, on the other hand, is natural and safe.
2. Cast Iron Vs. Stainless Steel Cookware
Another popular type of cookware is stainless steel, although the name is a bit of a misnomer. Stainless steel is not a great conductor of heat, so there’s usually a core layer of another material in the pan, such as copper or aluminium. High quality sets have three to five layers, so you’ll hear it described as “5-ply stainless steel.”
Here are 4 reasons to choose cast iron over stainless steel...
1. Stainless steel is not non-stick.
Unlike the natural non-stick qualities of cast iron, stainless steel is not non-stick. Cooks simply develop their own techniques to try to prevent sticking when using stainless steel.
2. High temperatures impact the quality of stainless steel.
Stainless steel runs the risk of warping at high temperatures. Stainless can develop hot spots, impacting the cooking quality. Over a gas flame, they can also develop a raised centre. With care, a cast iron skillet can last a lifetime.
3. Cast iron can handle higher heat than stainless steel.
If it has a proper handle, stainless steel can go from stovetop to oven, but it can’t take as high temperatures as cast iron.
4. Cast iron heats evenly and holds heat better than stainless steel.
Stainless steel does retain heat, but not as well as cast iron. Cast iron holds its heat longer, making it perfect for dishes you want to keep warm, even after setting them on the table to serve. Think of a stew simmering in a cast iron Dutch oven. It stays nice and hot, and the flavours get richer the longer it sits.
3. Cast Iron Vs. Copper Cookware
Copper is another natural cookware product, with some recent improvements. Cooper is a reactive metal, but current pans are usually lined with a non-reactive metal to make them safe. Lining options include tin or stainless steel.
Here are 3 reasons to choose cast iron over copper cookware...
1. Copper is a thin product that may not be durable in your kitchen.
Copper is a light product that can dent easily, which is especially troubling when you consider the higher price tag usually placed on copper cookware.
2. Copper can’t be used for as many purposes as cast iron.
Copper can handle high heat, and with the proper handle, can be used in the oven. But you can’t use copper on induction cooktops, and it’s not ideal for baking.
3. Cast iron gets better with age.
Copper eventually needs cleaning with a copper cleaner, because it will take on a patina. Cast iron’s non-stick properties simply get better the more it’s used.
4. Cast Iron Vs. Any Cookware
There are other types of cookware that appear on the market, sometimes disappearing in favour of another hot new product. Cast iron remains a top choice for cooks, as it has been for decades.
So here are 3 final reasons that cast iron is superior to other cookware...
1. Cast iron can be used to cook anywhere.
Cast iron can be used on all types of stovetops, from natural gas to electric, and even on induction cooktops. As well, cast iron doesn’t have to be used on the stove alone. Cast iron goes from stovetop to oven to BBQ to campfire.
Sear your roast in a Dutch oven and then put it in the oven; use a double burner griddle on the barbie to make pancakes and bacon; or, scramble eggs over the campfire with a skillet on your next outdoor adventure.
2. Cast iron is versatile.
Cast iron’s versatility makes it the one kitchen tool you can use for every recipe in the book. Being able to bake with cast iron, for instance, opens even more possibilities. Make a frittata instead of scrambled eggs, finishing it in the oven or under the grill to get that perfect finish. Sear your meat on the stove then keep it warm in the oven afterwards. Bake bread in your Dutch oven, make pizza in your skillet... the opportunities are endless.
3. Cast iron is extremely durable.
Cast iron cookware resists dents, warps, chips and bubbling. It can handle high heat, has a natural non-stick quality, and is easy to care for and clean.
Final Thoughts on Choosing Cast Iron
Now that you understand why cast iron is the best choice in cookware, superior to non-stick, stainless steel, copper and other cookware products, you’re ready to add cast iron cookware to your kitchen.
If you’re wondering where to look, Fresh Australian Kitchen is the ideal choice for you. Australian owned and operated, this family business produces a variety of cast iron skillets, as well as grill pans, a griddle and a Dutch oven.
Fresh Australian Kitchen’s cast iron is heavy duty and comes pre-seasoned and ready to use. Their cast iron is non-toxic and naturally non-stick, with a thick base for even heat distribution and unbeatable heat retention. It’s also versatile for use on any surface, from stovetop to oven, and grill to BBQ or campfire.
Make your life-long choice of Fresh Australian Kitchen cast iron cookware.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT US...
"Awesome quality, and a great price. So far used this 10 times, and it's been perfect every time. Put a beautiful sear on my steaks, crisped up the base of my pizzas, and made a beautiful dutch baby to the delight of my partner who'd never tried one. Works just as well as the Lodge pan I owned (don't drop them onto tiles) at half the price." — Toby E.
"Excellent cast iron. Very good value exactly the same as expensive cast iron." — Linda F.
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Ardith Stephanson is a freelance writer and communications professional who has some fun with her blog www.theardizan.com